Perfume – A Sensory Journey

During my commutes on the tube to and from work, I’ve found myself skimming through the Metros and reading each free weekly ES magazine (which are great aids for avoiding  eye contact with anyone) in the search for events and activities to go to before University starts for the year.

I came across a double page spread advertising an exhibition in Somerset House during September about the history and development of the perfume industry. At first I thought it definitely wasn’t for me as I’ve never bought myself perfume (It’s been bought for me, don’t panic) and I have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to scents so I would be way out of my depth.

But then I realised It’s an exhibition not a tasting (smelling?) class after all.

Not too shabby? – Somerset House East Wing

The location for a start was beautiful. The space was held in the East wing of Somerset House just a few minutes away from Covent Garden. Shout-out to the staff too who were lovely and let me go in earlier than planned as well as re-enter after my first tour.

The first room contained some of the world’s most famous and successful scents; Burberry’s Purple Rain, Dior’s Eau Sauvage, Giorgio’s  Beverly Hills to name a few.

Pedestals and glass covers were used to encase the bottles which helped emphasise how iconic they’ve been over time. There was a huge emphasis on how perfumer’s were independent and unpopular until around the mid 20th Century when major fashion houses started producing their own scents, such as the one below.

Youth Dew – The First Version from 1953

Synthetic materials were just being discovered in the late 1800’s by aspiring perfumers. These new materials created scents which differed hugely from the soliflores (women’s scents around the time) currently being produced.

François Coty was the pioneer of perfume concocting. He was the first person to incorporate new synthetic materials into his own perfumes which created original and unique smells, as well as being intelligent enough to observe department stores at the time and take the idea of branding, packaging and marketing into perfume production.

The booming, marketing savvy and celebrity placement fuelled perfume industry we have today is all thanks to Coty.


After viewing the many famous and influential scents of the 20th Century, the exhibition begun.

Immersive, Interactive and Intriguing

Rooms were created to display 10 anonymous perfumes with an environment and visual/physical aids to enhance the experience and feeling.

All perfumes have been/are still sold commercially.

The first perfume to guess was displayed in a large table filled with dark grains in swirled patterns

A sumptuous re-working of traditional iris perfumes

Once smelling the first 5 perfumes, a room showed all the descriptions of each perfume as well as the key ingredients. It was like a game, or a test of your own senses to see what you could feel and experience through smell. How arty.

The perfumes were available to smell again along with the description for you to re-live
The unwearable one…

The scent of sexual pleasure

Remember this title – it’s quite the product.

To put it frankly, I thought this perfume smelt awful, in fact borderline sickening. It smelt dirty, sweaty and gone-off. I later learned that this perfume was based on the aromas and, well, “secretions” of sex. Work that one out for yourselves.


The skill of science meets the art of perfume


A sensory exploration of the Texan Desert

Some of the perfumes were more easily identifiable than others as they had more relatable smells, such as beer, chemicals and sweets rather than a type of crushed flower from the deep forests of the Amazon only 0.3% of the population know about.


The explanations of each scent perfectly matched and unravelled the aromas in front of you
Some of the ingredients used to concoct some of the world’s most popular scents


Overall, an unusual, thought provoking, testing, niche experience. I like niche.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my experience, and if you get the chance to go, I’d definitely recommend it. As well as some food in Covent Garden afterwards too of course.


Get Tickets for yourself here: Perfume – A Sensory Journey

Student tickets are also available too (whoop)!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Tiffany Cox says:

    Very interesting read!

    Liked by 1 person

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